WASHINGTON(FinalCall.com)–“I met him at the Mall,” said Tameka, 13, recalling her starry-eyed acceptance of an invitation from a man she had never met. “He told me that he was a producer down here from New York looking for some new talent for his latest music video. He asked if I would be interested in auditioning.
“He took me to this big building in a part of the city that I had never been. I was handcuffed to a pole, all of my clothes torn off and taken away. I lost count of the days that I was there and the number of men who came in to use me and beat me.”
This loss of innocence and victimization of girls was the focus of a March 27 National Council of Negro Women’s (NCNW) town hall meeting here. It was stories such as those recounted about Tameka that captivated the audience and made them more aware of the scope of the problem. It was solutions proposed by presenters that gave them hope.
“As adults we’ve abdicated our roles. We’re not protecting our children. We’ve forgotten that a 12-year-old is still a little girl and our girls get themselves into things that they can’t get out of by themselves,” said Essence magazine Editor-in-Chief Diane Weathers.
She said that music and advertise are geared toward the early sexualization of girls “in our economy that pays people to be nasty.”
In 2001, Judge Nina R. Hickson began to see more and more girls before her bench for prostitution. That same year it became headline news in Atlanta.
“When I looked into the eyes of the 10-year-old before me, all I saw was death. I knew she didn’t deserve to be here. When I heard that she was forced to have sex with a gun to her head, I realized the market for young girls existed,” she told The Final Call.
“Men believed that with younger girls, there was no exposure to disease, but, on the contrary, these girls were full of sexually transmitted diseases.”
The story of child prostitution in Atlanta enraged the community and led to the sentencing of 14 male and female pimps. It busted up a network that reaped $14 million in profits each year.
The investigation revealed that the pimps provided their victims with false identification documents and drugs. There was also the lure of hairdos, nail services and free clothes. Some of the young girls were transported to Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and other states to participate in prostitution activities.
They also were “advertised” over the Internet and were freely traded among the pimps who had to follow a formal procedure of “serving notice” to the victim’s former pimp for the “trade” to be official.
These collective activities constituted a Federal Racketeering Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) enterprise, leading to the prosecuting of these pimps in one large multi-defendant case. This is the first time the application of the RICO Act had been used in this type of criminal undertaking.
Child prostitution is only one dimension in the war against girls. The music industry has received numerous complaints for its role in the sexualization of girls.
“There is a sexualization of music,” said Iyanla Vanzant, author and motivational speaker. “At 12, 13 and 14 years of age, we’re learning about unconditional love but by 16 we don’t know the difference between love and lust.
“We don’t know or love our bodies so we let anybody do anything to our bodies. Parents need the information so they can give it to their children.”
She encouraged parents to be mindful of the language they use with their children, saying, “We have to keep our language as positive as possible. Mothers, give your girls affirming language. Don’t make your fears their fears. Anger and unworthiness is destructive and it comes from home.”
According to an Essence magazine series on the war against girls, there is an escalating rate of sexual activity by Black girls; they are more likely to be overweight and 22 percent more likely to be the victim of a crime.
“Girls are the fastest growing population in juvenile courts,” said Judge Hicks.
Oracene Williams, the mother of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, spoke on what it takes to win the war.
“I paid attention to the mistakes my mother and grandmother made. I said that I wouldn’t do those things. There is right and wrong and our girls need to know this,” she said.
“When we have a child, that’s a commitment to bring them up in society,” she said to mothers. “If we don’t love ourselves and our girls, no one else will.”
Dr. Dorothy I. Height, the 90-year-old wonder woman of the NCNW, pledged to address the war on girls. “This should be a number one priority for us. It doesn’t help to talk about the way things used to be. I grew up in Harlem and I don’t know what kind of woman I would be growing up there today.
“We have a responsibility to our young people. We’re in a war climate now, so everything is strange, but we want to take this issue to our convention. There’s no legacy without preparation and we must prepare our girls,” she said.